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Eating in larger groups increases food consumption
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  1. Julie C Lumeng,
  2. Katherine H Hillman
  1. Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr J C Lumeng
    Center for Human Growth and Development, 300 North Ingalls Building, 10th Floor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109–0406, USA; jlumeng{at}umich.edu

Abstract

Objective: To determine whether children’s food consumption is increased by the size of the group of children in which they are eating.

Design: Crossover study.

Setting: University based preschool.

Participants: 54 children, aged 2.5–6.5 years.

Interventions: Each child ate a standardised snack in a group of three children, and in a group of nine children.

Main outcome measures: Amount each individual child consumed, in grams.

Results: Amount eaten and snack duration were correlated (r = 0.71). The association between group size and amount eaten differed in the short (<11.4 min) versus the long (⩾11.4 min) snacks (p = 0.02 for the interaction between group size and snack duration). During short snacks, there was no effect of group size on amount eaten (16.7 (SD 11) g eaten in small groups vs 15.1 (6.6) g eaten in large groups, p = 0.42). During long snacks, large group size increased the amount eaten (34.5 (16) vs 26.5 (13.8), p = 0.02). The group size effect was partially explained by a shorter latency to begin eating, a faster eating rate and reduced social interaction in larger groups.

Conclusions: Children consumed 30% more food when eating in a group of nine children than when eating in a group of three children during longer snacks. Social facilitation of food consumption operates in preschool-aged children. The group size effect merits consideration in creating eating behaviour interventions.

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Footnotes

  • Funding: This work was supported by the American Heart Association Fellow-to-Faculty Transition Award 0275040N to JCL. The study sponsor had no role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Competing interests: None.

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